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The New Jersey State Supreme Court has acquitted a young mother of child abuse and neglect after her newborn infant exhibited symptoms of methadone withdrawal.

The unanimous ruling by the State’s six Supreme Court Justices has reversed an earlier appellate court decision that the mother was guilty of abuse and neglect. The woman, called “Yvonne” in the court records, could retain custody of the baby boy, the appellate court had ruled, but only under state supervision.

The Supreme Court reversed that decision, saying the mother was taking methadone on doctor’s orders, so it couldn’t be considered neglect and abuse. She had become dependent on opiate painkillers prescribed for injuries sustained in a car accident, the records said. And when she became pregnant, she wanted to stop the painkillers, but doctors at the hospital told her to switch to methadone from the painkillers. Suddenly stopping the painkillers could jeopardize her pregnancy, she was told.

The Supreme Court sent the case back to the appellate court with instructions it would have to find some other evidence of abuse and neglect, because the evidence as presented was insufficient for such a finding.

Baby was born dependent on methadone

When the baby boy was born in early 2011, he displayed symptoms of methadone withdrawal, and had to stay in the hospital for several weeks. The NJ Division of Youth and Family Services filed a complaint, asking the family courts to seize the infant and place him in state custody.

A family court judge ruled in favor of the state, even though Yvonne was on methadone at the orders of a physician. The judge pointed out that Yvonne’s drug history dated back to 2005 and allegedly included cocaine and heroin. The judge acknowledged that Yvonne had not used those drugs while pregnant, but ruled that she could have custody of the baby but only under state supervision.

Yvonne’s case was appealed, and that’s when the appellate court upheld the family court’s decision. But the appellate court only cited the newborn’s methadone withdrawal symptoms, and ignored the earlier drug use. And it said that “the fact that defendant obtained the methadone from a legal source does not preclude our consideration of the harm it caused to the newborn.”

The Supreme Court says the appellate court made a mistake by basing its decision only on the baby’s withdrawal symptoms. It added that the court should be more careful not to make rulings that could cause pregnant women to avoid drug treatment for fear of losing their babies to the state.

The Supreme Court said that unless there are special circumstances, “a finding of abuse or neglect cannot be sustained based solely on a newborn’s enduring methadone withdrawal following a mother’s timely participation in a bona fide treatment program prescribed by a licensed health care professional to whom she has made full disclosure.”

States, feds don’t agree on legal issues

The situations surrounding pregnancy and drugs and the effects on babies has never been resolved legally at the federal or state level, and states continue to go their own way.

In some states, the fact of drug abuse while pregnant vs taking a prescription as ordered is not the issue. Simply bearing a child dependent on a drug is actionable, as in the case of NJ going after Yvonne. Fortunately for Yvonne, the Supreme Court disagreed and has probably set a new precedent for New Jersey.

Yet in some other states, no legal action is taken except in cases of clear drug abuse. In a few states child welfare always gets involved, while in others a mom can be charged with a crime. In at least one state, Tennessee, she can be charged with criminal liability, receive jail time and possibly lose custody of her baby – although there are political movements afoot to hopefully reduce the severity in Tennessee.

In some of our earlier blogs we have addressed the issues of drugs and pregnancy. Last year we reported on the fact that the number of babies being born dependent on methadone is definitely increasing. In another blog we reported how the number of newborns suffering any opioid dependency has tripled in the past few years. And in an important story last year, we covered the recent science proving that babies born dependent on opioids are at much greater risk of becoming drug abusers later in life.

This is a problem with many different viewpoints on what to do after the fact. Meanwhile, the optimum solution is to be off drugs before getting pregnant, which means encouraging more users to make the decision to end their dependence or addiction, but especially women of child-bearing age.

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Categories: Methadone #

The executive team at Purdue Pharma, the maker of the opiate painkiller OxyContin, may soon be swallowing samples of their own product trying to dull the pain of a $1 billion civil suit filed against the company by the state of Kentucky.

novusrxOxyContin was at the center of a burgeoning prescription painkiller abuse epidemic almost since its introduction in the mid-1990s. The time-release oxycodone tablets were an immediate hit – no pun intended – with opiate users, abusers and addicts from coast to coast.

Almost immediately, reports began to pour in from all over the country of skyrocketing addictions and deaths attributed to OxyContin. No region in the country was harder hit than the Appalachians, especially in Eastern Kentucky where OxyContin was nicknamed “Hillbilly Heroin.”

It got so bad everywhere in the country that the federal government was pressured to investigate. What the Justice Department found was cause for legal action. Purdue Pharma was sued for a variety of civil and criminal offenses, including making false claims about the safety and addictiveness of OxyContin. In 2007, Purdue and three of the company’s top executives pleaded guilty to all charges and paid $634 million in fines.

But it didn’t end there. Roughly $160 million of that fine was set aside to reimburse the feds and states for damages suffered by Medicaid programs because of the false claims made for OxyContin. The state of Kentucky was offered $500,000 as its share. Instead, Kentucky refused the cash and filed its own suit against Purdue for $1 billion.

“I want to hold them accountable in Eastern Kentucky for what they did,” Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway told Bloomberg News. He said the wave of addiction led to misery and crime. “We have lost an entire generation. Half the pharmacies in Pike County have bulletproof glass. We had FedEx trucks being knocked off. It was the Wild West.” Purdue can only avoid a trial in Kentucky by making a “very, very significant” settlement offer, Conway said.

Kentucky’s suit, says Bloomberg, “alleges that the company trained its sales force to falsely portray OxyContin as difficult to abuse, even though its own study found a drug abuser could extract most of the active ingredient from a tablet by crushing it. Addicts quickly learned how to get high from a single pill, which contained far more pain-relief medicine than older drugs because of its long-acting feature.”

Purdue, which so far has never lost a single one of countless suits brought against it by individuals and groups (except for the federal case in 2007) is taking this one very seriously. After deciding they’d never get a fair and impartial jury in Pike County, Kentucky, Purdue succeeded in getting the trial moved to New York. But after years of legal hassles, Purdue exhausted all its legal options, and in January 2013 a federal appeals court upheld an order to return the case to Pike County.

Worse, the company jeopardized its position even further, by failing to file court documents on time. This has resulted in the court declaring Purdue guilty and liable for OxyContin addictions in Kentucky and all the problems that followed.

“This is a billion-dollar case – a billion-dollar case,” Purdue lawyer John Famularo said at a hearing early in 2014, as quoted by Bloomberg. The new disadvantage declared by the judge for failing to file the documents on time means Purdue would go to trial with its “arms tied behind its back.”

Adding to the company’s misery are two similar state-level civil lawsuits filed in Illinois and California against Purdue along with several other painkiller makers. A loss by Purdue in Kentucky will certainly boost the chances of these two other state suits in nailing Purdue. And it opens the door for many more similar suits said to be waiting in the wings to see what happens.

According to Bloomberg News, it’s become “Purdue’s legal nightmare – one that the company says could result in a catastrophic $1 billion judgment against it, based on the state’s allegations and the potential for punitive damages and pre- and post-judgment interest. With other lawsuits filed this year in Illinois and California against Purdue and other opioid makers, the Kentucky case could trigger more litigation along the lines of the suits that cost Big Tobacco billions during the 1990s.”

Over in Pike County, Kentucky, prosecutor Rick Bartley says “the ripple effects” of OxyContin abuse will be felt far into the future in his region. Bartley, who’s been in law enforcement for four decades, tells Bloomberg that babies were born addicted to painkillers, their mothers in jail, their fathers dead, and grandparents were left to try to clean up the mess.

“This being ground zero, I think there could be no better place for Purdue Pharma to have to stand its ground and answer to the people in our community as to the horrors OxyContin has brought over the years,” Bartley said.

Meanwhile, here at Novus Medical Detox Center, we continue our dedicated mission to provide the very safest, most comfortable and most effective drug and alcohol medical detox programs in the world. Don’t hesitate to call us and get your questions answered. We’re always here to help.

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Categories: Novus Medical Detox #

Emergency responders such as police, ambulance and ER personnel, and the city, state and county administrators that pay their bills, aren’t happy with a recent price jump for nasal naloxone – the widely-used, life-saving drug that can reverse an opioid overdose in a matter of seconds.

Amphastar Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the only U.S. maker of naloxone in convenient single-dose nasal delivery cartridges, has suddenly more than doubled the wholesale price, averaging $13 to $15 per cartridge to as high as $30 to $35.

The company is now impressing Wall Street, according to the financial news, and its shareholders are delighted with the company‘s rising stock values. But the price hikes are causing a big problem for the legions of emergency personnel from coast to coast who depend on nasal naloxone to save lives.

State, county and city health departments are traditionally under-budgeted. But with the recent recession and unemployment rates these past few years, the squeeze has gotten worse than ever. And the price increases are making it especially difficult for the many non-profits across the country that provide nasal naloxone kits to addicts and their families. These street-level, store-front groups are under even tighter financial constraints these days, and they’re on the front lines helping saving lives every day too.

New York’s Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman wrote a 2-page letter to the Amphastar’s CEO demanding an explanation for what he called the “unacceptable” rise in prices.

Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum that has urged putting naloxone into every police officers’ hands, told the New York Times that because it’s not an incremental increase, there’s “clearly something going on.”

And Dr. Phillip O. Coffin, director of substance abuse research at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, told the Times that the price hikes “will decrease access” to naloxone.

Naloxone has been around since back in the 1960s and has been a useful but little-known player in the ER. That’s where most overdose victims – the ones who are lucky enough to arrive alive – get another chance at life and hopefully, a new decision to get clean, all thanks to naloxone.

In more recent years, naloxone has been made available in many constituencies to all emergency responders, usually financed by state and local health care and law enforcement budgets. Naloxone kits are also offered to the general public, such as heroin and painkiller addicts and their friends and families, in some places even without a prescription.

In 2011, says the CDC, there were 16,917 prescription opioid deaths and 4,397 heroin overdose deaths – over 20,000 in all. This colossal annual death rate, which dwarfs every kind and type of epidemic since the world-wide 1917 influenza pandemic , will only increase until more funding, not less, is made available for safe and effective opioid medical detox and long-term treatment facilities.

Most heroin and opioid overdose victims who are pulled back from death’s door by the use of a nasal or injected dose of naloxone turn right around and go back to their dangerous habits. After all, they’re addicts, right? And naloxone is only emergency medicine, not heroin detox, not rehab, not addiction treatment by any stretch.

But once you’ve saved a life with naloxone, the seriousness, the impact of that event isn’t lost on the just-saved addict. It should open the door to at least a new discussion, if not a focused intervention, that might lead to treatment and recovery.

Saving a life, any life, is not just worthwhile but essential. And naloxone provides that opportunity hundreds of times a day across America. It seems ethically wrong on every level to deny anyone another chance at life when it is so easily, quickly and inexpensively possible.

Only time will tell if the soaring naloxone prices result in killing more Americans because of a board-room decision to make a killing on the stock market.

If you or someone you care for suffers from an opioid dependence or addiction, please call Novus right away. We’re here to help, and will try to answer all your questions about opioid detox and essential long-term treatment.

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Categories: Drug Facts, Drug Overdose, heroin #

Happy-New-Year-with-stars-2015_pngWe thank you for being part of our community and look forward to staying in touch with you over the new year.

In our 2015 newsletters and blog posts we will be bringing you both informative articles on the state of addiction and recovery in the US, plus up-lifting and inspiring stories of those that have beaten their addictions.

May your year be productive and fulfilling and an inspiration to others.

From the Staff of Novus Medical Detox Center

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Categories: Novus Medical Detox #

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From all the Staff at Novus Medical Detox Center

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a new hydrocodone extended-release painkiller from Purdue Pharma called Hysingla ER (ER is for Extended Release) made with “abuse-deterrent” technology that discourages chewing, crushing, snorting or injecting.

The new hydrocodone painkiller also contains no acetaminophen, which is found in almost all other hydrocodone painkillers such as Vicodin, Norco and Lortab and many others, as well as over-the-counter painkillers like Tylenol. Acetaminophen is the leading cause of liver damage in America, which can lead to acute liver failure and death.

Hydrocodone-and-acetaminophen painkillers like Vicodin are not only the most prescribed painkillers in the country, contributing to countless cases of liver toxicity, but they’re also among the most widely abused drugs in the country. The need for abuse-resistant hydrocodone tablets without acetaminophen has been evident for years.

Hysingla ER is intended as a once-a-day treatment for patients with “severe, round-the-clock pain that cannot be managed with other treatments.” According to Purdue’s announcement, Hysingla ER is the third drug they have made using the company’s RESISTEC™ “proprietary extended-release solid oral dosage formulation platform.” The company says it’s the “first and only hydrocodone product to be recognized by the FDA as having abuse-deterrent properties that are expected to deter misuse and abuse via chewing, snorting and injection. However, abuse of Hysingla ER by the intravenous, intranasal, and oral routes is still possible,” the statement continued.

Studies of the effectiveness of its abuse resistance will continue after the drug’s release in the United States in early 2015. Purdue said it expects to launch Hysingla ER in dosages of 20 mg, 30 mg, 40 mg, 60 mg, 80 mg, 100 mg and 120 mg to be taken once every 24 hours.

After more than a decade of highly publicized abuse, addictions, overdose deaths and lawsuits, the company’s controversial extended-release oxycodone painkiller, OxyContin, was reformulated in 2010 using a similar abuse-deterrent system. Purdue claims that evidence shows the change in formulation has led to significantly less abuse.

Meanwhile, the FDA has had to face a firestorm of protests and criticism from both the medical community and the public since it approved Zohydro ER more than a year ago. More than 40 consumer protection, addiction specialist and citizen health care groups across the country have been urging that the FDA reverse its approval of the drug.

Zohydro ER, from drug-maker Zogenix, is also an all-hydrocodone extended-release painkiller like Purdue’s new Hysingla ER. But Zohydro ER has no built-in abuse-resistance at all, which critics insist makes Zohydro ER a massive risk for overdose injuries and deaths among opioid addicts across the country, just as OxyContin was before it was reformulated with abuse resistance.

In spite of the criticism, and even after its own expert medical safety panel gave the drug a firm thumbs down because of the drug’s obvious potential for abuse, the FDA’s hierarchy found some reason somewhere to approve it.

On the business side of things, Purdue’s Hysingla ER certainly will be a potent and potentially devastating commercial challenge to Zogenix’s much-maligned Zohydro ER. We can’t imagine doctors prescribing Zohydro ER with the safer Hysingla ER on the market. In response, Zogenix recently stated that the company is already hard at work to come up with its own abuse-resistant technology, and that it will reformulate Zohydro as soon as it has it perfected.

Here at Novus, we work with many patients who were addicted or made dependent “accidentally”, for want of a better term, while taking legitimate opioid painkiller prescriptions.

Opioids are prescribed for a wide range of ailments, from post-surgical pain to arthritis and even migraines.

But prescription opioid deaths have quadrupled since 1990 to nearly 17,000 a year, and the whole field of pain management is under a lot of pressure to re-evaluate its practices. While some experts argue that opioids should only be used for the most severe cases, such as cancer pain or end-of-life care, others maintain that less severe, short term pain management still requires opioids.

While the FDA continues to receive public pressure to take more effective action, the national epidemic of prescription opioid abuse continues. And here at Novus we continue to deal with it using the most innovative and effective medical detox available.

If you or anyone you care about is having a problem with prescription opioid painkillers or medications of any kind, don’t hesitate to call Novus. We’re always here to help, and will do our best to answer all your questions about prescription drug detox.

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Categories: Drug News, Medical Drug Detox #

According to a 2011 White House study, nearly one out of every five driver fatalities in 2009 – 18 percent to be exact – involved “drugged driving,” the term that describes the growing epidemic of drug-impaired driving, similar to “drunk driving” for alcohol impairment. The latest figures show a rise from just 13 percent back in 2005.

Not all drivers killed in traffic accidents are tested for drugs. In fact, the average is only around 60 percent of them. But among drivers who were tested, 33 percent tested positive for drugs in 2009, while only 28 percent tested positive in 2005.

This rising trend of drugged driving fatalities is causing even more concern than you might expect, because in that same period, 2005 to 2009, the total number of all driver fatalities dropped significantly – from 27,491 in 2009 to 21,798 in 2009. Yet the percentage of drugged driver fatalities rose 5 percent.

These findings are described in Drug Testing and Drug-Involved Driving of Fatally Injured Drivers in the United States: 2005-2009, a report from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). It was based on figures from a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis survey.

We’re just talking about drugs here, not alcohol. We already know from other studies that alcohol claims one-third of all driver fatalities. Alcohol was also involved in combination with drugs in some of this study’s findings. But drugs – stimulants, depressants and psych drugs – were the main focus of the study.

The study includes reams of information of lesser interest to most of us, such as comparing males to females (not much difference) or specific findings for counties. We’re more concerned with the big national picture. And it isn’t a pretty one.

The depressing reality is that 21,978 Americans were killed in vehicle accidents in 2009 (latest available figures), and nearly a fifth of them – 3,952 – were killed while driving under the influence of drugs.

By way of comparison, that’s more than three times as many military fatalities in the more than 10 years of Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Looking at it another way, drugged driving is killing more than 10 drivers every single day of the year. And when you add in the alcohol-related driver fatalities, the total is much higher.

Fatally injured drivers testing positive for any drug per 100,000 population by state for 2009.And that’s only driver fatalities. Thousands more deaths occur among passengers in both the drug- and alcohol-impaired drivers’ cars; there are thousands more victims in the cars crashed into by impaired drivers; and hundreds of innocent pedestrians and cyclists that are also struck and killed by impaired drivers.

We also have to consider the countless thousands of injuries, from weeks or months of pain and misery to a lifetime of permanent disability. There are far more injuries than deaths, resulting in incalculable health care costs.

Now, when you add to the health costs the legal, law enforcement, loss of work and family costs, the financial impact on society is truly immeasurable. Estimates place the cost of drugged and drunk driving in the billions of dollars a year.

You can’t put a dollar value on the irreconcilable emotional losses among families, friends and coworkers of the dead and injured. But these are even more costly, in human terms, than the losses of dollars and cents.

When you consider that all these thousands and thousands of deaths were utterly needless and avoidable, the scope of this national tragedy is magnified almost beyond belief. All it would take, to save every one of these lives, is for anyone using drugs or alcohol to simply refuse to climb behind the wheel.

Just that one, single, simple decision would save thousands lives and heartbreaks every year.

What kind of people are we, that we would risk not just our own lives, but carelessly risk the lives of our fellow citizens – men, women, children and infants – by driving while on drugs or alcohol?

Why don’t we find ways to make our educational system really teach kids that reach middle and high school to not start using drugs and alcohol, let alone to drive a car while doing so?

At the bottom of it all, what kind of examples are we as parents setting for our kids? As parents, we are the product of the same educational system that has failed to get that essential message across. We clearly need to make some changes in our thinking. And our local, state and national policies need to be changed to ensure better educational results. No one wants this carnage on our streets and highways to continue.

Here at Novus, our patients come from all walks of life, but they have one thing in common – they’ve made that all-important, life-affirming decision to become free of drugs and alcohol. Part of that decision is always a clear look at the negative effects of substance abuse, and a resolve to never let it happen again.

If you or someone you know has a problem with drugs or alcohol, don’t hesitate to pick up your phone and call Novus. We’ll not only help you find the right solution, we’ll both be contributing in our small way to make our roadways safer.

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Categories: Drug News, Drug Overdose, Drugs #

This Thanksgiving, we at Novus want to thank you for being part of the dedicated movement of people working to ease the sufferings of others and to save the lives of those impacted by addiction and dependence, making it possible for them to return to their loved ones as healthy and whole once again.

You yourself are a blessing and we are thankful you are there.

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Categories: Novus Medical Detox #

In spite of the fact that drugs are tearing at the fabric of our communities like never before, it’s unusual when ordinary citizens take part in a public campaign to offer positive, helpful ideas to deal with it.

In fact, we usually hear a lot of negativity, blame and finger-pointing rather than suggestions that might actually do some good.

So we were delighted recently when the good citizens of Bangor, Maine and surrounding communities came forward with their own ideas about how those suffering addiction might be better served.

It all started when the Bangor Daily News posted a terrifically inspiring video of interviews with local people who have overcome their addictions.

“Over the following week or so,” reporter Erin Rhoda said, “we were inundated with responses from viewers. In total, more than 50 people wanted to tell us how they think Maine can better help those experiencing addiction. They also shared how addiction has touched their lives.”

The video that triggered the exchange was far from typical in the news media of most cities today. We’re usually exposed to tirades from angry citizens or scary lectures from politicians, which seldom lead to anything positive.

Here are a few quotes from Ms. Rhoda’s remarkable story about the touching responses from local readers:

  • Addiction “brought me to my knees,” one person wrote to us.
  • When one woman’s son started drinking, she said, “The chaos, havoc, fear, sadness and anguish it brought to our family was so heart wrenching; to see him suffer was almost more than we could take.”
  • Another woman described how the hardest task, once she got sober, was learning to love herself again.
  • We heard from someone whose relative became addicted to heroin, lost medical coverage, became homeless and lost her children. “We don’t know from day to day if she is even alive,” this person wrote.
  • Another person gave the view from the other side: “[Addiction] about killed me and made my whole family sick as well. The not knowing if I was still alive crushed them.”
  • One person wrote that addiction is “everywhere I go, whether I see it or not.”
  • Many people gave us hope. One wrote, “If I can change, anyone can, with determination and support. They have to want it, though. No one can want it for them.”
  • Another wrote, “Thankfully, after a long process of trial and error, my son found the help he needed. He has now completed his college degree and is working in his field.”

The paper asked readers to suggest ways that Maine can improve its help for those suffering from addiction. Most answers were concerned with better access to health care and long-term treatment facilities, and the need for expanded educational programs to “reduce the stigma that makes it so difficult for someone to seek help,” Ms. Rhoda wrote.

Here is a sampling of the responses from the public published in the Bangor Daily News:

  • Continue to educate the community about addiction and what it does to a person. Stop blaming the person.
  • It is such a multifaceted issue, and you need multiple strategies to address it. We need to lift people up, which could be as simple as listening or doing healthy activities, but it needs to be addressed as a community.
  • Spreading knowledge and information about the disease of addiction and its impacts on not just the people around the addict/alcoholic but the person suffering firsthand.
  • Be open minded.
  • A concerted effort is needed to de-stigmatize drug addiction. Employers need to be encouraged to give people a shot at employment despite a past criminal record that was related to their addiction.
  • Compassion.
  • Be more understanding, become better educated about addiction, so there aren’t so many judgments.
  • We need more support groups available at all hours.
  • Educate people to lock up all medications, including over-the-counter medications and medical marijuana. The state should have a media campaign about this. Keep drugs out of the reach of others.
  • Treat people as sick, not as criminals.
  • Know it is only to be expected that humans will experience some backsliding along the road to freedom from street drugs, just as they do when quitting cigarettes, alcohol or fattening foods.
  • Know there is life after addiction, that the user you see on the street can overcome the addiction and be an asset to society.
  • Know that, sometimes, just because a doctor gives pills doesn’t mean they are safer.
  • Stop the war on people who are abusing drugs.
  • More help paying for detox and rehabilitation services.
  • There are a lot of things that can affect those suffering from addiction. The main question is: Are we willing to spend the money to create feasible rehabilitation programs and facilities to help those who are addicted?
  • Financial support for longer term rehabs. For anyone not on MaineCare, these rehabs are not possible. No one can miss months of work and still have a job. Yet these safe environments — where people can focus only on getting clean — are very much needed at the beginning of recovery. It is not easy or fun to give up the drug of choice. It’s unimaginable at first. Try doing it working full time. Some can, but most will fail.
  • Courts should try and force rehab or treatment as often as possible for drug-related crimes, at least those that are non-violent. Sometimes your first glimpse of recovery needs to be forced. But attend enough meetings, forced or otherwise, and it will stick with you.
  • Open up more long-term rehabs that don’t have replacement therapy as their protocol.
  • Provide real therapy and counseling along with methadone treatment. The methadone clinics aren’t doing enough of it.
  • Provide more rehabs that connect with each other and help lessen the gap between hitting bottom and getting help.
  • Make treatment more widely available and accessible, especially to those without insurance. Provide prevention and education services at a very young age, through schools and the community, and educate parents, not just kids.

Novus Medical Detox Clinic is a firm supporter of any public efforts to de-stigmatize substance dependence and addiction. We congratulate the Bangor Daily News. And we encourage anyone suffering from a problem with drugs or alcohol to call us any time to get their questions answered about detox and drug treatment. We’re always here to help.

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Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders may affect up to 5 percent of U.S. children

There is a new report out this month that suggests that as many as one in 20 U.S. children may have health or behavioral problems related to alcohol exposure before birth. Especially these days, when “everyone knows” not to drink during pregnancy, the numbers are higher than anyone expected.

“Knowing not to drink during pregnancy and not doing so are two different things,” especially before a woman knows she is pregnant, said lead researcher Philip May, a professor of public health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Findings from the study were reported online Oct. 27 and in the November print issue of Pediatrics.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is at the most severe end of the spectrum of conditions resulting from drinking mothers. These conditions include abnormal facial features, structural brain abnormalities, growth problems and behavioral issues. Children on the milder end of conditions resulting from pre-natal alcohol use still suffer from things like impairment in the ability to complete tasks required to do well in school or other behavioral issues.

Knowing this, why would any pregnant woman take even one drink?

Dr. Lana Popova, a senior scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and an assistant professor of epidemiology and of social work at the University of Toronto says, “There is no safe amount of alcohol or safe time to drink during pregnancy, or when planning on becoming pregnant. If a woman is unaware of her pregnancy, for whatever reason, she should discontinue drinking immediately upon pregnancy recognition.”

The study also found other alcohol factors that contribute to the potential severity of problems children might have. The longer it took a mother to learn she was pregnant, how frequently she drank three months before pregnancy, and the more alcohol the child’s father drank, the more likely it was that the child would have negative effects, were part of the findings.

Dr. Popova also cites two contributing factors to these unexpected percentages: a high number of unplanned pregnancies and a need to improve access to effective substance abuse treatment programs for women of childbearing age.

Over the years, we have always regularly received phone calls from pregnant women and it is our heartbreak that we can not help an already pregnant woman detox off of alcohol. So we work very hard to get the word out to women to please, please confront and handle alcohol problems before risking getting pregnant.

As Dr. Janet Williams, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio observed: “Alcohol is a neurotoxin, and alcohol exposure is the leading preventable cause of birth defects and intellectual and neuro-developmental disabilities. So why is it worth experimenting with your child?”

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